Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Espresso Nails

Boyfriend and I sit down to have lunch today after work.  He says:

"You look like a car mechanic, go wash your hands." 

Um thanks.  

Its been only two days working around coffee and I'm already in desperate, desperate need of a good manicure.  Who knew that espresso likes to lurk underneath short nails?  I'm considering just covering them completely in glitter to hide the brown tips.  I think their flashyness would also distract from the clumsy burns I'm going to get from the milk heater-upper wand.  Double plus

Are glitter nails too much?   

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Juan Dolio Beach

Today we escaped Santo Domingo and made it to the beach.  The water was warmer than my shower water, and after only 2 hours of sun time I'm beet red.  Time to befriend SPF.  

Empty beach at noon
Anahi ready to swim
Afterward we ate far too much pizza sitting under a straw hut at ConCon.  With the sound of bachata music playing and professional baseball on the telly, the afternoon couldn't have felt more Dominican. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I am Employed

Less than two weeks in Santo Domingo and I accepted a job offer today!  It's been over a week of debating possibilities and negotiating my salary, but this Monday I will start as a Gerente de Operaciónes del Grupo CARMEL, basically the store manager of a popular coffee shop, CARMEL.

The company is in an exciting period of growth right now, and I'll be responsible for running the model store for the upcoming franchises to mimic.  I'll have complete autonomy in conducting R&D, the marketing, promotion, and in the implementation of new projects to increase sales.  I know I'll also need to teach a thing or two about real customer service when I start; I might just blurt out  "Things are about to change around here" on my first day.

It will definitely be a challenge, and even more so because I wont be working in my native language, but I'm starting to get that butterfly feeling - I think that's excitement?  Only downfall - I have to work Saturday mornings.  Ick.

Time to become a morning person.  I'm counting on the coffee to help. 

CARMEL espresso, my new best friend

Friday, August 26, 2011

My American Breakfast

2 different types of bananas - Do you see them?
Since I arrived nearly two weeks ago, I don't think one day has gone by where I haven't eaten bananas.  Rarely have I had them the plain way (peeling the skin and eating them like a fruit); rather, I've had bananas baked, boiled, mashed, mixed with meat in casseroles, mixed with cheese in casseroles, and in my yaroa.

This morning I made myself one of my favorite breakfasts - a slice of wheat bread with natural peanut butter and sliced bananas on top.
Today, I'm the one eating the exotic meal.

Breakfast or a great snack

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


This morning we went to Immigration.  What an experience.

The whole process could've taken 15 minutes, but with the chaos and disorganization, we spent almost 2.5 hours in the decrepit government building.  Basically, there are different "stations," and when finally reaching the front of the line at each station, a government official will snap at you, "Is this your first time?  OK, well I'm only going to say this once" and then they spit out a list of different things you need to bring, at a pace that won't allow you to write any of it down.  The list can't be found on the Internet or anywhere else, forcing you to wait in line at each station only to find out you'll have to do it again (only once more if you have an impeccable short term memory).  It reminded me of the paperwork process in Spain:

Once we finally reached my last "station," the dreaded medical exam, I was partially terrified.  I am a 5 year old girl when it comes to getting blood drawn, and the place felt like a factory - one in, one out every 3 and a half minutes.  As I was waiting for my turn with the needle, grandpa next to me was blabbering on and on about how this is the "best country in the world" all the while the electricity kept going out.  How on earth are you telling me that this is the best country in the world if there is going to be no power when I have a needle stuck inside my arm? was all I could think about.

Soon enough, it was my turn.  I had to pee in a cup over a seatless toilet that didn't flush.  Of course, I urinated all over my hand.  Next, it was time for the needle.  It was only one tube, but the needle was so thick!  The "nurse" put the needle in, and the power goes out.  Just my luck.  I squealed "Owww" when she finally took it out.  How dare her tell me it feels like a mosquito bite!?!

When we left, all I could repeat to boyfriend was "You owe me big time."  
The things you do for love..  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ethpañol to Epañol {Castellano to Caribeño Spanish}

When I visited A here in June, I could barely understand the dialect.  Moving from Spain's spanish to Caribbean spanish is like living in a new language - even basic words, like juice, change completely when crossing the Atlantic.  Slowly but surely I've tweaked my pronunciation: gracias [thank you] is no longer "grathias" and cinco [5] is no longer "thinco."

Last week I was talking about my dialect struggle to an American english teacher and she blurted out, "What accent?  They butcher the Spanish language here!"

--she said it, not me--

In order to help you understand what I mean, and to give castellano speakers a little chuckle, I've written below a few Dominican phrases, followed by the proper (full) spanish phrase.  Say them out loud and fast (because they talk excruciatingly fast) and you'll hear what I mean:

Ta to -->  Esta todo bien  [Its all good, fine]
A po ta bien --> A pues esta bien [its good, its fine] 
Mi amol --> Mi amor [my love - term of endearment]
Eh lo mimo --> Es lo mismo [its the same]
Conflé --> Cereales [derivative is Cornflakes, but used for cereal in general]

And my all-time favorite...
Ya tu sabes [you already know] - use this whenever you're having a conversation and you're too lazy to explain your point.  Use approximately once every 30 seconds of speech.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Day Before The Storm

Today was a lazy Sunday.  

Our plans for the beach fell through, so we spent the afternoon in the hot tub with champagne, take out, and waterproof Uno.  It wasn't a good picture day for me, and it didn't help that A beat me at Uno. 

{farmers tan}
{ready to battle}
The weather was great all day with very little rain and a nice island breeze in the evening..  Probably because Tropical Storm Irene is supposed to reach the DR tomorrow - even classes have been cancelled in Santo Domingo.  I find it amusing how here they have hurricane days, instead of the snow days that I grew up with.  Is it bad that I'm a little bit excited to witness my first tropical storm?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Food for Las Mega Divas

That is what it said next to me while I was eating lunch at Barriga Llena [translation: full belly].  Barriga Llena is a fast food place ('fast' for island time) serving mostly burgers and sandwiches.  The main wall is covered with phrases like, "Food for la suegra" [mother in law], "Food for flacos" [skinny people], "Food for barberos" [barbers], etc..  Most of our mealtime consisted of me asking: "What does [this word] mean?  What does [this word] mean?"  I bet there are enough words for a complete Dominican language.

Words I learned (not necessarily 'Dominican')
Cocolo: somebody that wears baggy clothes and imitates black culture
Jevito: a pijo person; stuck up
Bachatero: Bachata lover
Tumba polvo: a suck-up (think teacher's pet)

Boyfriend had a bunless burger with a blue cheese and mushroom sauce (delicious).  I had yarao, a dish from the city of Santiago De Los Caballeros that is slowly gaining popularity around the country.  Its basically a slop of Dominican food staples.  My yaroa had platano maduro on the bottom {personal favorite}, shredded chicken, fries, peppers, and lots of melted cheese.

yummy yaroa
I left with some new vocab and a barriga llena - I'd say it was a successful lunch.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Worry Wart

Anxiety.  I get it from my mom.  If you met me, you'd think I was a very relaxed, easy going gal, but those that know me closely know that I can overanalyze and worry like its my job.  Sometimes I even start this nervous arm twitch, which thank God I don't get very often because my mother [Queen Worrier] worries that I have Parkinson's when it comes.

These last few days I've been feeling a bit nauseous.  I thought it was the new climate, until the other night when I dreamt that I accidently drove boyfriend's parents car off a bridge and we had to jump out of it mid-air, Fast & the Furious style.  Alrighty then, I'm guessing its anxiety.

A lot of things in my near future are unknown right now, and although part of me loves the adrenaline rush behind the new changes, another part of me is freaking out and wanting some security and structure.

Where will we be living?  
When will I find a job?  Where will I be working?
What if I hate it here in 6 months?  
What if I have to sell coconuts on the street?

I always say everything happens for a reason, but its hard to take your own advice.  Snap out of it, Tia, and get back to job hunting.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Currently Obsessed: Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara

Today I had the pleasure of taking those awful passport photo-type pictures for my Dominican residency.  I remembered that for my Greek passport, I wasn't allowed to wear makeup and that I couldn't smile.  The photo is in black & white and its super awkward - my mother calls it my Titanic Survivor picture.

So today I went prepared wearing a shirt con mangas [sleeves] and without makeup/earrings.  The photographer kept telling me that I needed to get my bangs away from my forehead, but I didn't have a bobby pin or rubber band.  With my oily looking skin (thank you humidity) and my hair and bangs slicked back behind my shoulders I look like a greasy high schooler.  Ew!

Luckily, I was able to sneak in my Clinique Bottom Lash Mascara.  It looks so natural that the photographer never knew I was wearing a tad bit of make up, muahaha.

This nifty little $10 tool has been at the top of my makeup bag since the day I bought it.  It reaches your itty bitty lashes and gives you Kim Kardashian lids, I promise.  Also, it never comes off.  Makeup remover doesn't even work - only hot water will take it off.  And if you're lazy at removing your makeup properly [like myself] then the same coat will last you a couple of days.

Shhh, don't tell. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm Heeere

I landed in Santo Domingo yesterday afternoon.  I had no idea what to write on my immigration paper regarding the duration of my visit, because how do you state that your stay is going to be indefinite [for the time being], but that no, you're not a citizen or even a legal resident?  

I wrote 6 months, and when the customs gentleman asked me something about where I will be living, I got all flustered and didn't know how to respond.  My answer was along the lines of "Umm..  Here..  In a house.."  I looked like a deer in headlights, but he sort of just laughed, rolled his eyes and returned my passport with a fresh Dominican stamp.  That was easy. 

I don't know.

In the evening, we went to TGI Fridays for drinks with A's family & friends that I had met before.  Maybe he thought the locale would ease the initial culture shock or something - I felt like I was right back in American suburbia. 


Today his family helped me get the ball rolling on this immigration process, if only it was as easy as the airport arrival.  There are about 1,000 documents involved, and the whole process takes 3-4 months.  But get this:  if you pay a little extra for the "VIP" process, it only takes 3 hours.  Ha!  Can you believe it? 

In total, its going to cost me about $250 to be a legal person here with a legal job.  Sigh.  I suppose he's worth $250..  Hehehe.

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Life in Luggage

Where do I begin?

I'm moving to the Caribbean in 36 hours and this is what my room looks like.

Bathroom counter

Bedroom floor
How do you fit your life into 2 suitcases and a carry-on?  If you're moving, how many pairs of shoes do you bring?  Socks?  Bathing suits?  Workout shorts?

I've been getting rid of lots of things lately and I must say, it feels good.  But now that its time to pack what I actually want to bring, I'm realizing that not everything is going to make the cut.  A rounded hairbrush or some sunnies?  An extra purse or pair of shoes?  Am I just being too materialistic here?  Probably.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend.  
As for me, I'll be spending Friday & Saturday night looking at these piles and wondering what to do with them.  Any advice would be much appreciated. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Running Mad

Before Barcelona I was never a runner.  I used to think runners were strange.  Didn't it get boring?  What was the point?  I don't know what changed, but at some point I fell in love with running in Barcelona.  I love the feeling you get when your breathing is perfectly controlled, you are focused, and after you're beyond tired, your runner's high kicks in.

My 1st 10K in Barcelona
Using Map My Run I created route after route, and I even got boyfriend to start running with me.  When he left in May to return to the DR, running and I became a pair.  Running became my boyfriend replacement.

Here in suburbia, I'm on a break with running.  I'm so unbelievably bored to have squirrels, ducks and homes as my scenery, as opposed to Barcelona's beautiful parks and waterfront.

Neon everywhere
In my new city, Santo Domingo, running and I will need to get to know one another all over again.  I'm worried that the heat and humidity will turn me off to it completely and that I won't cope well with the temps.

After stumbling through the www, here are some tips I've found [and will use] to avoid dying of heatstroke:

1) Give yourself 8-14 days to acclimatize to the hot weather.

2) Run before sunrise, the coolest time of the day.

3) Drink at least once every 2-3 miles. 

4) Slow down early to avoid a dramatic recovery from the heat.

5) Pour water on your head - up to 70% of your heat is lost here. 
No wonder all those old men always pour water all over themselves.  That will be me next week.

I'm determined to not stop running. 
How do you stay motivated in extreme temps? 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Half Way

Today marks the middle of my express stay at home.  In just 5 quick days I'll be in La Republica Dominicana.  I've been counting down to see boyfriend since June, so its hard to believe that its now so close.

Things I already miss about Barcelona: 

Tapas Portions
Veal Fillet {at Cerveceria Catalana}

My huge terrace
Move out Day

Walking everywhere and transportation that's active
Bicing.  Amazing.

My 5 mile beachside running route
Beach Bum profession

August summer festivals
Steven in Gracia

Things I'm looking forward to:

Seeing A

Fresh, tropical fruit and too much frozen yogurt

Learning new history and seeing new sights
Cueva de Los 3 Ojos

Platano maduro
And most importantly, new beginnings
new city, friends, job and home

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Can I just say how great it is to be in a country with exceptional restaurant service?  In the States, being served ice cold water is taken for granted, where you have free refill after refill every time you take a sip.  I definitely wont miss paying for overpriced, lukewarm bottled water in European restaurants, where asking for ice seems to be a huge inconvenience.

Last night, Jessie, Carlos and I had dinner at one of my favorite Chicago restuarants - BANDERA.  BANDERA overlooks the Magnificent Mile and offers American southwestern cuisine.  It has a "casually sophisticated" atmosphere, with inviting black booths and live jazz music playing in the evenings.

Its famous for its rotisserie chicken [which I have yet to try because I'm too focused on my already-faves].  Served in a warm skillet, their signature cornbread is worth every calorie.  Its crumbly, buttery and sweet, even though you can see and taste the small pieces of onion and green pepper inside.

Corn Bread
Jessie ordered the seared sashimi tuna salad which was "phenom" - her words exactly.  Carlos had a beautiful black bean chili, with a heap of finely chopped colorful peppers and dollops of goat cheese on top.  He also had a side of their very rich and creamy mac & cheese with walnut cornbread crumbles {I'm sure I ate most of it}.  Attempting to balance out my cornbread consumption, I had the seasonal vegetable platter.  This picture does not do it justice.

Me & my veggies - c/o Carlos' iPhone
What to Order:
-Glass of Conundrum - a notable California white
-Cornbread skillet - need I say more?
-Grilled jumbo artichoke
-House-made oreo ice cream sandwiches

I promise you won't be disappointed. 

Afternoon in the Chi

Today was a fabulous day.  

Jessie and I spent the afternoon downtown Chicago, walking and talking and meeting up with friends.  We walked past the new Marilyn Monroe statue, but with the amount of fanny pack tourists, it was hard to get a decent shot.

As we were walking by, a photographer asked us to pose for one of those Never Hide - Ray Ban photos.  So we put on pairs of Ray Bans, stood with our faces inside a Never Hide frame and stuck our tongues out..

I'm thinking we're going to become famous.

I miss Europe already, but in some ways, its awfully nice to be back in America.  I love that my grandma's cooking is only 30 minutes away, and the shopping..  I forgot about the plethora of options.  I even saw that TopShop is coming to Chicago.  Now, Chicago?  NOW you come?!..

I've been trying to find black lace shorts for weeks months, and I finally found a pair today!  I also bought some new leopard, sequined TOMS.

What do you think? Too much bling bling?
They do twinkle a tad bit.. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

R&R at the Airport

When I checked in today I asked the girl if there were any little villages worth visiting close to the airport, since I saw Munich last year and didn't have the energy for a big city.  She blurted out, "Ha!  NO" as if we were in the middle of the desert or somewhere crazy.  I knew she was wrong, because Bavaria is full of charming little towns, but since I've been exhausted today I decided to spend the afternoon in the hotel, The Kempinski Hotel Airport Munich.
Vegas or Munich?

Flowers Everywhere

I soaked in the jacuzzi, spent too much time in the steam room and watched (german) Keeping Up with the Kardashians in a comfy robe and slippers. 

In the end the travel delay turned out to be a good thing.  So thank you, broken Lufthansa plane, for the relaxing afternoon and free stay.

{Suitcases Everywhere}
Now I'm off to bed to wake up for my early flight in the morning.  
Guten Nacht. 

Another Airport Hotel

So I thought I was being pretty emotionally stable about leaving Barcelona.  Apparently not.  All of my feelings came pouring out of me this morning when Sylvia and I said goodbye.  I sobbed the whole 25 minute ride to the aeropuerto; I think the taxi man was legitamitely worried about me.  But unfortunately the Lufthansa lady did not feel sorry for my tear-stained puffy face when I arrived, because she had major attitude about the extra kilos in my luggage.  German.
[sorry Sylvia]   

150 euros for the extra suitcase and a cancelled flight later, I'm now stranded in Munich.  I'm bummed because tomorrow was jam-packed with plans:

-See grandparents in the morning
-Meet Jessica Jess for some quick shopping
-Aperitif with Jessie W
-Dinner with Jake & Carlos
-Meet Nikki and her boy for a few birthday drinks
-Have a sleep over at Jessie K's

{I know a lot of J's}

Now I'll be spending that fun-filled day on an airplane.  Boo.  But it could be much worse, like having to stay overnight at an airport hotel in Newark, NJ {which I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy}.  This time I'm lucky because at Munich's airport its a 5-star Kempinski Hotel, and my God, its gorgeous inside!

I'm running on very little sleep, but I'm off to do some exploring.. 
I hope I don't fall over.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

See you, España

Its 1:30 AM as I type out this post and I leave Barcelona in 6 hours.  I feel really cheesy talking about chapters in one's life, but its difficult to close a really great chapter of your life..

Its still so freaking WEIRD to me that I'm leaving.  It hasn't really sunk in because I still think I'm going on holiday and that I'll be back in a couple of weeks.

Slurping up strawberry chunks at La Fianna tonight, Sylvia, Max, Jessica of Strawberry Besos and I reminisced about all the fun memories we've had together in this city that grew to become our home.  Its funny how you meet people and never know just how important they will become to you; I now feel like I'm leaving my family behind in Barcelona.

Pretty Girls

Max and I

But every goodbye makes the next hello closer.  As Max said the other day, "the world is a village now" and miles don't mean anything.  Sylvia made us promise that the next time we will all see each other at the very latest will be at our weddings, but I hope its much sooner than that.  It might not be in Spain [if Telefonica banishes me from the country for not paying my internet cancellation bill, oops], but I'm sure that we'll meet again somewhere in the world very soon.

You guys truly made my time in Spain unforgettable.  
I couldn't have asked for better roommates and friends. 

La Fianna

As tonight is my last night in Barcelona, its only fitting that my friends and I have drinks at La Fianna, my favorite bar in the Borne district.  Its website describes itself as "seductive" and "funky" and with the cave-like interior and what my grandma calls beds in the corner, I think yaya would concur.

Their strawberry mojitos are divine with lots of fresh crushed strawberries, mint, and just the right amount of sugar.  Boyfriend says he feels like he's chewing on grass with the huge chunks of mint inside, but I say they're perfect.  They may be a little expensive for mojitos, but one is enough to do the trick - and if you're like yaya you are more than buzzed after 5 sips.

{non-strawberry} mojito night

What to Order:
-Strawberry mojito {unless you have food texture issues}
-Nachos {the best I've had in Barcelona}

The bar is hidden on a narrow street close to the Picasso Museum; so
good luck finding it. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


For the past six months I've listened to employees whine, grumble, complain, argue and yell on the phone and via email.  Since when did Human Resources become the outlet to vent every life issue?

After talking to unhappy people all day long, it becomes difficult to stay calm and not let the downers get to you.  But instead of reaching the boiling point where you just blurt out "I DON'T GIVE A [fill in word of your choice] ANYMORE", these girls made me realize that you really

shouldn't let it get to you.

They taught me that you should never take work (and life) too seriously, to not sweat the small stuff, and that a good laugh over something stupid (our very own in-office Shrek horse) can really go a long way.

Harassing the window washers

Jigsawing at 3 AM
So you guyyyyyys, thanks for being silly and getting me through the worst of days with your delicious treats, bihourly emails and long train commutes full of girl talk.  I wouldn't have lasted a week without you in Cerdanyola.  Think of me when you order the kebab potato "spud" at the [insert thick American accent here] MALL across the street.  I will miss you loads.

Tia Rex

Silom Spa

Last summer was by far the best time of my life.  With friends in from Chicago, meeting A, the feeling of accomplishment & freedom after completing an intensive MBA, lots of traveling, and the fact that it was summertime in Barcelona, how could it not be perfect?

I'll tell you how..  Having to complete a 10,000-25,000 word thesis during the sunny summer months while the beach and chiringuito bars full of icy sangria are calling your name.

Mia of GlocalGirl and I pounded out our thesis at the last minute and were looking for a new spa to relieve our last minute stress.  Luckily we found Silom Spa.  After my facial and her massage, we met in the lounge for our post-treatment detox tea just glowing, feeling balanced and relaxed.

For my birthday this year, A bought me a spa package that I could use at various spas in Spain.  I was on cloud nine when I saw that Silom was on the list.

After moving out, packing, unpacking and packing again [my suitcases might just bust open during the flight], today is the perfect day to use the gift.  This afternoon I'll be getting the Thai Massage at Silom Spa.  I can't wait!